When there was a media boom in Pakistan, the media industry did not play a desirable role.
Fawad Chaudhry, former federal information minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader, made this remark at a session titled ‘Foes and Friends: Media Laws and Regulations’ on the first day of a two-day conference on ‘Extreme Reporting: Conflict and Peace in the Digital Age’ being held at the Centre of Excellence in Journalism at the Institute of Business Administration.
“When General Musharraf came to power, he gave the media freedom,” Chaudhry said, adding that the former president did not bring in any regulation for the media.
The former information minister said that lack of regulation led to somewhat monopolisation of the media industry.
He maintained that the industry became more of a ‘seth media’ and journalists did not have much say in it.
He was of the view that currently, the media was owned by people who had other businesses and they had entered the media to protect their interests. “Back in 2018, I predicted that the media boom will be over and in the next five years it will just be social media. There is no proper mechanism for the media – there is no regulation,” he said, adding that Pakistani media needed three things to survive — regulation, proper mechanisms and technological changes.
Senior journalist Hamid Mir, however, did not agree with Chaudhry. “General Musharraf did not give the media freedom. In Musharraf’s regime, transmission of TV channels did not happen from Pakistan but London and Dubai,” he said.
Mir recalled that he used to get licences for his team every 15 days during the Musharraf era. “We have a lot of media laws, but they are not implemented – and this is the problem,” he asserted.
Another panelist at the talk was Federal Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik who said both the politicians and journalists were the country’s elite and they were currently shocked. “We need to realise that the times have changed,” he said, adding that the medium of news had changed and politics had changed and the people had shaken up both the realms of journalism and politics.
Talking about fake news, Dr Malik said the information revolution through social media had given the common man a voice. “It gave the people the power to reject the standardised truth of the elite. “Now, the elite don’t know how to react to this. They are frozen in time,” he remarked.
He said that the voice of media and freedom of expression were often stifled in the name of regulations. He called for self-regulation of the media industry through standards set by media professionals.
Lawyer Zainab Janjua said the real problem with regulating media was ‘intention’. “The government uses this to stop dissent. It is not about regulating the content going out to the public but it is with the intention to control the voice of dissent,” she said.
She mentioned that it was difficult to regulate social media. “The focus of the regulation has to come from within the media and the media has to take responsibility. Fake news and propaganda are a real issue. We cannot disregard them,” she added.
Other sessions at the conference dealt with the issue of satire in the media and whether the public needed the media industry in today’s world.
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